Narrator: This is Science Today. An single spider can spin more than one kind of silk for all different purposes. There's one silk that just covers eggs and another that makes the typical wagon wheel-type web to catch prey. Even within that one wagon wheel web, there are different kinds of silks that make up the structure. Cheryl Hayashi, an associate professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside, studies spider silk proteins.
Hayashi: One of the other really cool things about spiders and their ability to make silk is that as that spider is reeling down - it's not as if inside the spider it has a spool of spider silk in there. When you see it dropping down that way, what you're seeing is, what's happening in real time is liquid protein is being turned into a thread at the rate you're seeing that spider drop.
Narrator: Hayashi says there's great interest in making synthetic spider silks to produce eco-friendly superfibers.
Hayashi: Think of something like nylon. That requires petroleum-based chemicals and some pretty harsh industrial processes that turn the soup into a nylon thread…and spiders are doing it in your house. They're probably doing it right now!
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.